All beings struggle for pleasure and want to avoid pain. Yet is pain really inherently bad or is there something deep and transformative to it, which justifies a second look? Let’s do it the ExperienceZone way.
What pain really is
I’m a huge fan of Osho. An Indian guru who passed away too early. He posed an interesting hypothesis: The only problem is psychological pain. Physical pain is a non-issue, as once it manifests itself, we’re forced to accept it. Here’s an example: You break your arm during sports. Now, you might feel physical pain, which disappears after a while. However, the psychological pain might last, since you are worried not being able to work out soon again or being handicapped at school or work for some time.
This leads us to the second provocative statement: Psychological pain is an intense continuous negative feeling. Feelings are the children of thoughts and emotions. Negative feelings derive from the only negative emotion: Fear. Worries about the future are forward looking thoughts contextualizing fear. Regrets about past events are backward looking thoughts mixed with fear. Do you get my point? The root cause is our mind wandering into the past or present and putting negative meaning onto situations. If we run into a vicious thought cycle fueled by never ending fear, pain emerges.
Why pain is a blessing
Believe me: I learned the lessons below the hard way and still need to remind myself every time when my expectations don’t match reality.
- Pain makes you find yourself: A recent break-up led to a heartbreak. This type of pain is somewhat interesting since it relates to another person. Whenever I’m faced with a challenge, I go deep into it, which meant contemplating about the time spent together. After some whiles in those conscious meditative and unconscious dream states, I got increasingly self aware. Self-awareness is not an epiphany moment but construction work. You peel the onion until the naked self lies in front of your mind. Admittedly a disturbing process and discovery for an extrovert like me. Anyway, self-awareness is the necessary prerequisite for self-acceptance, which might be equally difficult to obtain. Full acceptance of my failures and weaknesses as they made me who I am today: A unique yet flawed, a complete yet vulnerable person.
- Pain makes you change your life: The final stage of the continuum is self-actualization. Once you know who you are, you can change your belief-system based on your natured and nurtured personality. You can give up of all limitations and let go of all restrictions you’ve put on your self because he said or she said. You can fully express yourself and completely align your words and actions to you inner core. You can define your calling, mission or raison d’etre based on your uniqueness, the portfolio of passions and god-given set of gifts.
- Pain makes you value pleasure: Everything in our world is relative, i.e. happens on one dimensional scales and is subject to individual perceptions. In fact, there’s no objective reality but only the meaning or quality we give events. Visually we separate brightness and darkness. Yet there wouldn’t be darkness without us knowing what brightness is. It’s just different intensities of light. Hot and cold are tactile perceptions. Yet there would be no experience of hot water if we wouldn’t know how cold one feels like (mind the hands-in-the-bucket-test). It’s just different qualities of temperature. Same applies to pleasure and pain. We only appreciate pleasure if we experienced its counterpart: Pain.
Some words of caution: I don’t urge you to seek pain. There’s good reason why we’re wired to avoid pain. We’re meant to live a happy life. Pleasure doesn’t make you happy though. It only scratches the surface. To become truly fulfilled, you need to look at the dark fruits on the pain tree. You can only harvest those if you step back and change your viewpoint.
How to make pain your ally
Here’re my takeaways and actionable advises after dealing with psychological and physical pain all my life as a human being.
- Appreciate it: Welcome pain once it’s there. Pain is your teacher. Open the door. Embrace it. A private mandatory coaching session hosted by the universe is nothing to be ashamed of but a chance to become whole again, learn and eventually grow.
- Dive into it: Learn to contemplate or meditate over pain. Listen into yourself. What kind of pain are you feeling? Why are you experiencing it? What does it have to do with your life? Then take full responsibility instead of blaming anyone for “hurting” you.
- Draw conclusions: Think about what you want to change. Pain will vanish, yet might return if you don’t transform fundamentally. Stay vulnerable as this attitude bears most learning potential and is the real essence of being alive.